Jul 17, 2023
Senator tours Michigan blueberry farm to highlight SWD bill

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., recently promoted the passage of the Spotted Wing Abatement Trust (SWAT) Act during a visit to Crossroads Blueberry Farm in West Olive, Michigan.

The legislation targets spotted wing drosophila (SWD), an invasive insect that affects growers of blueberries, cherries and other soft-skinned fruit crops. The SWAT Act would establish a fund managed by the USDA to strengthen efforts that mitigate the spread of SWD. Peters is pushing for the bill to be included in the 2023 Farm Bill.

Sen. Gary Peters, D-Michigan, and Luke DeHaan, manager of Crossroads Blueberry Farm in West Olive, Michigan, tour the Farm. Photo courtesy of Sen. Peters’ office.

“I’ve heard from growers all across our state about how this invasive fly is threatening their businesses and livelihoods by spoiling entire crop loads and making them unsellable,” Peters said during the July 14 visit, according to a news release. “Many farmers are also incurring significant costs to both address and prevent these pests. That’s why I’m pushing to pass my bipartisan SWAT Act which would help combat this invasive species and protect Michigan growers.”

Luke DeHaan, owner of Crossroads Blueberry Farm, said SWD lays eggs in fruit, making it unmarketable.

“This potential loss of crop is extremely harmful to our business and on top of that, we have to take matters into our own hands financially to try to tackle infestations,” DeHaan said, according to the release.

Nancy Nyquist, executive director of the Michigan Blueberry Commission, also attended the event.

“It’s imperative that we protect this economic engine and the ability of farmers to do their jobs,” Nyquist said. “Senator Peters’ bipartisan SWAT Act will help to address this issue by ensuring we’re both prepared and equipped to reduce the population of SWD.”

Rufus Isaacs, Michigan State University professor of entomology, said federal resources are needed to improve the understanding of invasive pests and provide farmers with effective tools to address infestations.

“That’s exactly what Senator Peters’ SWAT Act would do and why I have worked hand-in-hand with Senator Peters on this bipartisan legislation to invest in advancing research, like the work we’re spearheading at MSU, and pest management strategies,” Isaacs said. “The SWAT Act will move us closer to resolving this growing problem.”

Peters toured the farm’s processing facility and met with Crossroads Blueberry Farm owner Dave Reenders and manager Luke DeHaan, to hear how SWD is affecting their crops, business and livelihoods. Nyquist and Isaacs — who is spearheading national research on and developing effective pest management strategies for SWD — accompanied Peters on the tour. Peters also examined samba wasps, a natural predator to SWD and recently developed SWD mitigation effort.

Top photo: Sen. Gary Peters, D-Michigan, third from left, visits Crossroads Blueberry Farm, West Olive, Michigan, on July 14 to promote legislation that focuses on spotted wing drosophila, which damages soft fruit. He is joined by Nancy Nyquist, from left, executive director of the Michigan Blueberry Commission; Rufus Isaacs, MSU entomology professor; and Luke DeHaan, Crossroads Blueberry Farm manager. Photo courtesy of Sen. Peters’ office.

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